Real Cooking

Now, let’s see…where were we? Oh, yes. When we left off last week, I had just begun to tell you about some of my adventures in cooking.

Cooking for hire, that is.

For the past 13 years, I have cooked for families, church groups and civic organizations and have thoroughly enjoyed it. But with the changes in my children’s schedules and a shoulder that seems to act up when I do too much lifting, the time came to put the cooking on the back burner.

And so now I feel free to share some of the more-shall we say-interesting aspects of my former job. Here’s one of my favorite stories.

One night, I was serving a large group in the tiny town of Pilsen. The dinner was to be held in the old school building there and I had been warned that the kitchen was limited on oven space and refrigeration.

A trip to Pilsen the night before the event proved useful. Upon seeing the kitchen firsthand, I quickly made up my mind I would have to bring over roasting ovens, Crockpots and warmers to keep the hot foods at the necessary temperatures.

Most of the cold stuff, I ascertained, could be placed in the refrigerator and, since it was wintertime, I decided that what

couldn’t fit in the fridge could just be left in the van outside in the cold. Those items would most certainly remain cool enough.

The following day was busy with preparation for the evening’s meal. My crew and I made ourselves at home in the school’s kitchen. By serving time, everything was going as smooth as silk. We got the meal

out and the servers were offering refills on iced tea and water when Keith, who was helping that night, went out to the van to

get some of the extra bags of ice that

we had left in a cooler.

It was now getting time to get the desserts out, and so some of my kitchen help started bustling around getting pieces of chocolate ?clair onto plates. The pans of dessert we had stored in the refrigerator were used up first. Then, Brenda Reimer, my right-hand helper, asked for the extra ones to be brought in from the van.

Keith obliged by running out the back door and into the cold. That’s when the shouting began. I heard my name being frantically yelled by my normally sedate husband. What in the world was happening? Was he hurt? Was he being mugged?

Surely not in Pilsen.

My kitchen crew and I ran outside and there was my husband, his face panic stricken, holding onto the collar of the roundest little Dalmatian I think I’ve ever seen. The dog was wagging his tail furiously as he tried over and over to lunge out of my husband’s grip and back into the van, the side door of which was standing wide open.

“I’m so sorry,” my husband began sheepishly. “I forgot to shut the door when I came out to get the ice and this guy got in and found one of the desserts. It’s totally ruined.”

While my crew stood behind me aghast, I pulled out the dessert that had been licked clean of all its whipped cream.

“Don’t worry,” I said to Keith. “We’ll just cover it over with some more topping and it’ll be as good as new.”

I let that sink in for just a second, and then asked if this was the only dessert the dog had come into contact with. After a most careful scrutinizing search, we found our happy little friend had only been able to reach one of the pans.

As Keith held on to Spot, the rest of us carried in the remaining desserts. When we got into the kitchen, Brenda looked at me and said, “You aren’t going to serve this dog-eaten dessert. I simply won’t allow it.”

“Of course not,” I replied.

For some reason that day, I had decided to make an extra dessert just in case something unforeseen happened. I was anticipating unexpected guests. Of the two-legged variety, not the four-legged.

What a relief.

When dessert was served and the final cleanup had begun, we all had a few minutes to laugh over the events of the night. We speculated if someone that night, in the sleepy little town of Pilsen, would look at his or her dog as he returned from his nightly stroll and wonder about the white froth that covered his muzzle.

Rabies, no. Whipping cream.

Later that night, after Keith and I had returned home, I asked him if he had hurt the dog in any way as he was getting him out of the van.

“No, he was just so darned happy I didn’t have the heart to even yell at him.”

From then on we called chocolate ?clair squares “Dalmatian Dessert.” With its layer of white whipped cream topping and a splattering of chocolate, it’s a fitting name.

* * *

Halloween is here and these sweet treats might come in handy if you need to make something special to take to a party. Come to think of it, who needs a party? Caramel apples and the fall just go together.

Caramel-Marshmallow Apples

1 (14 oz.) pkg. caramels

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1 tbs. water

5 or 6 small apples

Combine caramels, marshmallows and water in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until caramels melt. Cool slightly while preparing apples.

Rinse and thoroughly dry apples. Insert flat sticks into the stem end of each apple.

Dip each apple into the caramel mixture, coating completely. Remove excess caramel by scraping the bottoms across the rim of the saucepan. Place on waxed paper and refrigerate until firm.

Caramel Nut Apples: Roll coated apples in chopped peanuts before refrigerating.

Turtle Apples: Roll coated apples in coarsely chopped toasted pecans and then drizzle with melted chocolate bar.

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